How to Test Your Portland Home for Mold: 2020 Update

portland real estate mold home test

Portland homeowners: Is your home harboring mold? 

That was a trick question because mold occurs just about everywhere on the planet, including homes in Portland, Oregon. Invisible, or “ambient” mold spores float on the air waiting for an appropriate place to land and form the green, black and blue colonies we’re all familiar with. 

The real question is, not whether there’s mold in your house, but if you have a mold growth problem. If you do, there’s probably an underlying issue that should be addressed.

But what about toxic black mold? Thankfully, this strain of mold is not very common, and is rarely found in Portland homes. According to the CDC, “All molds should be treated the same with respect to potential health risks and removal.” 

Portland Mold Tests: Which does your home need?

Molds are all in the kingdom of Fungi, which means they love moisture! In most cases, mold is easy to find. Are there black dots spreading on the bathroom ceiling or blue stains streaking the wall behind the toilet? That’s mold. It also comes in brown and white fuzzy varieties. 

In a way, we’re fortunate that mold has a look — and a musty smell — that is completely unmistakeable. Even professional mold remediators in Portland admit that “If mold is visible, testing to ensure a substance is in fact mold is usually not necessary.”

However, there may be occasions when mold is suspected, but not visible. It can grow in out-of-the way places, such as ductwork, insulation, and subfloors. You might experience allergy symptoms that can’t be solved by changing your HVAC filter and eliminating pet dander. In this cases, it may be beneficial to get professional help in seeking out mold. 

Here’s what’s worth paying for: 

  • A mold inspection. Most mold can be easily identified by the homeowner. But, if mold is suspected in a hidden or out-of-the-way place, a mold professional should be able to find it, whether it’s in a crawlspace or behind a wall. 
  • Moisture testing. Because mold needs moisture to grow, detecting moisture within materials like insulation, carpets, subfloors and drywall can be helpful, especially if you suspect a water leak but haven’t found the source. 

Types of mold tests to avoid:

  • Mold analysis. This type of testing promises to reveal what kind of mold you have – whether it’s CladosporiumAspergillusPenicillium or Stachybotrys. While this might be interesting from a scientific perspective, from a home-safety perspective it makes no difference at all. According to the CDC, the EPA and other official sources, there is no difference in the health impacts between various strains of mold. Your money is better spent on getting rid of the mold itself and addressing its underlying cause. 
  • Mold spore air testing. These tests claim to find whether the concentration of mold spores present is “within federal limits”. But according to the EPA, “ No EPA or other federal limits have been set for mold or mold spores.” Sampling cannot be used to check a home’s compliance with federal mold standards, because they don’t exist. If there are enough mold spores to trigger an allergic reaction, no further evidence is needed to seek out the source. 

Got mold in Portland? What to do about it. 

So you’ve done the tests and figured out where the mold is hiding in your Portland home. Now you’ll want to clean it up or remove the damaged material to avoid further health problems. The next, immediate step should be to eliminate moisture, and thereby the cause of the mold. If you don’t, it will be back before you can put your rubber gloves away!

How to clean up mold

Non-porous materials (ceramic, caulk, painted surfaces, vinyl) can easily be cleaned to remove mold:

  1. Remove the mold growth. According to the EPA, mold is best cleaned away by scrubbing the surface with soapy water. They don’t recommend using bleach or other chemicals to “kill” the mold because of the fact that more mold spores are always waiting in the air
  2. Eliminate the stain. Hydrogen peroxide or vinegar applied with a spray bottle will reduce or eliminate mold stains from many surfaces. You may need to let it sit for up to one hour.

Shower curtains and other fabrics can be washed in the washing machine with regular laundry soap and a splash of vinegar to eliminate the mold smell. 

In cases of moisture intrusion, porous materials like sheet rock and wood can not usually be fully cleaned of mold. However, drying the material and eliminating the source of moisture will prevent mold from re-growing. 

Insulation, carpeting and furnishings aren’t easy to clean and will need to be thrown away once they’ve gotten moldy. 

Portland mold remediation and repair

Mold takes hold whenever moisture is present, and there are two major causes of moisture in the home:

  1. Typical water use. We purposefully pump up the moisture in the air when we shower or take a steamy bath. If the bathroom fan is nonexistent or not working properly, that’s enough to create a mold or mildew (a type of mold) problem in Portland’s moist climate. Water can also collect around sinks when poor design leads to improper drainage. Wiping down these surfaces after use is enough to prevent mold growth. Most Portland bathrooms just need regular, thorough cleaning and good ventilation to keep mold colonies at bay. 
  2. Water intrusion. When a storm pushes rain indoors around a poorly sealed window, when the roof leaks and ceiling tiles become saturated, or a pipe under a sink leaks and soaks a pressboard cabinet, mold quickly moves in. In Portland, mold is often found in attics and along rooflines where gutters are clogged or leaky. Finding the structural problem for water intrusion, and fixing it appropriately, is the solution to mold in this case. 

It goes without saying that mold problems should be addressed before listing your Portland home on the market, and that buyers should have a nose out for mold problems when they shop for homes. A good Portland real estate agent can help advise you on how to deal with the problem when it arises.

July 13, 2020

Stephen FitzMaurice

Stephen FitzMaurice, Realtor is a top 5% real estate agent in the U.S. A Principal Broker in Oregon, Managing Broker in Washington, he has been licensed since 2003 for residential real estate sales. Call his team in Oregon at 503-714-1111 or in Washington at 360-345-3833.

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